I left the Stihl Timbersports qualifier held in lake Charles Louisiana Sunday at 9 am before the storm hit New Orleans after loading our competition deck on a low bed tractor trailer. After most events two Granite State Lumberjack Shows employees – Duffy Dolliver of Vermont and I – stay behind and make sure the deck is packed up and sent off to the next event or back to Wisconsin.
We were driving a 30 foot Ryder rental and decided to head east towards Baton Rouge on the now famous Rte 10 so we could catch state highway 165 and go north to I-20 east and beat the storm. As we looked at Rte 10 all you could see was bumper-to-bumper cars heading away from Baton Rouge to western Louisiana or Texas.
Once we hit I-20 east the exits had signs- some homemade, some electric on wheels that said “Emergency Shelter” or “Emergency Information.” When we got to I-59 north the first exit we saw had a barricade that said “I-59 South Closed For 100 Miles.”
Duffy and I started looking for a hotel for the night after Birmingham Alabama but nothing was remotely available until we got to Gadsden in northeast Alabama.
All along the way north we saw hundreds of tree trucks and electric company utility trucks heading south along with tractor trailers loaded with pumps, generators and other equipment.
As we passed people driving, or they passed us, you could see that the single item most often found in the back seat of the passenger cars was some sort of animal carrier. People were taking the bare minimum of possessions they cared about.
After dark Sunday just outside of Gadsden in northeast Alabama on I-59 I spotted what looked like an accident in the middle of the 70 mph speed limit highway. As we approached it turned out to be about five cars traveling around 40 mph in a caravan with their flashing lights on. So this made the cars easy to see from a long distance away. It turned out to be cars full of elderly women who were peering out from the steering wheels in a determined white-knuckle effort to go north. It was almost heroic how they were taking their fate into their own hands with a sensible and effective plan to get to safety. I assume they are alright now because it was so far north of most damage, God bless them.
We arrived back in NH Tuesday afternoon and it was not until then that I got a chance to see any real TV footage of the unfolding disaster we left behind.
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